Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1 SU, 8-7-1 ATS) vs. Indianapolis Colts (11-5 SU, 10-5-1 ATS)
NFL Wildcard Round
Date and Time: Sunday, January 4, 1:00pm EST
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, IN
by Bob, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CIN +3.5/IND -3.5
Over/Under Total: 50
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It seems just like yesterday that the NFL season was kicking off, now here we are, already starting the playoffs. One of the best games of the opening weekend will be the Cincinnati Bengals taking on the Indianapolis Colts. Both of these teams won double digit games, and both teams have the talent to make a deep post season run. On paper, Indy looks like the sure fire favorite here, but this game could go either way. Yes, the Colts have the home field advantage, but like they say…. “Any given Sunday.”
The line opens with the Colts favored at home by 3.5 points. The 3.5 point spreads always scare me, because I am the king of getting killed by the hook. The total points are set at 50 combined and I would guess that this game would end somewhere in that ballpark. Both of these teams have been quite successful against the spread this season, with the Colts being a little more dominant at 10-5-1 ATS while the Bengals are 8-7-1. As of Tuesday morning, 68% of the action was on the Indianapolis Colts to cover the 3.5, while most think the score will actually go under the 50 combined points.
Before the season started, I liked the Colts to make a run at the AFC Title. They may still be a year or so away, but hey, here they are hosting a playoff game after winning the AFC South division. At home in Lucas Oil Stadium this season, the Colts are 6-2 with their only losses coming to the Eagles and the Patriots…both who are good playoff teams. Their six home wins this season include victories over the Baltimore Ravens, and this Cincinnati Bengals team. The last time these two teams met, the Colts won 27-0. I am not seeing another shutout on the horizon, but I like the home teams chances. In 2014, the Colts were number one in the NFL in passing yards. Andrew Luck and the Colts receivers were able to average over 300 yards per game in the air. The running game for Indy was no slouch either gaining 100 yards a game also. In order to get this playoff win and to cover the 3.5, the Colts need to do just what they did the last time they met the Bengals just a couple of months ago. On October 19, when the Colts dominated the Bengals 27-0, Indy held Cincinnati to just 135 total yards. The Colts were also able to sack Andy Dalton four times and the Indy defense caused the Bengals to convert just one third down on thirteen tries. It was a beatdown in every since of the word. If Indy plays with that same attitude, I see them easily winning again.
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The game in Indianapolis was by far the Bengals worst performance of 2014. They want nothing more than to just consider that game a fluke and get back out there and get some revenge on Sunday. In order to come in and win this game, the Bengals need a much more balanced offensive attack. In 2014, Andy Dalton and the Bengals only averaged about 213 yards per game in the air, which was not even good enough to crack the NFL’s top 20 in passing. On the ground however, Cincinnati was able to be highly successful. Led by both Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill, the Bengals ended the 2014 regular season ranked 6th in the NFL in rushing. The Colts realized last time that stopping the run is key, and that is exactly what they did. This time around, the Bengals need to open up the offense and put the Colts defense on their heels. If Cincy plays one dimensional, I do not see them making this much of a game. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bengals goal is simple…pressure Andrew Luck. As great as Luck is, when under pressure, he is known to make a few mistakes. In 2014, Luck threw 40 touchdowns, but he did also throw 16 interceptions and fumbled the ball 12 times. Luck is human and can make mistakes, but if he has all day to throw, it will get very ugly for the Bengals.
This is playoff game. Each team will come and play their best. Everyone will move a little quicker, hit a little harder, and play a little more focused. It is win or go home. I know that 27-0 game earlier this season should have no bearing on my pick here, but it does. I do not like this match up for the Bengals and I truly see another win by the Colts. I do not think it will be a 27-0 blowout, but I do see Indy making enough plays to pull away late in the second half. Colts will beat the Bengals 28-17.
Bob’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: PICK THE INDIANAPOLIS COLTS -3.5 AND UNDER THE POSTED TOTAL POINTS OF 50